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The Cost of Counterfeit Products Is Escalating
John Caulfield / BUILDER / August 7, 2013
Billions of dollars and thousands of domestic jobs are lost annually as product knockoffs, mostly from China, continue to stream into North America.
Most contractors probably have a torpedo level in their toolboxes, but fewer can be certain about that tool’s provenance or quality.
The mention of torpedo levels isn’t random. A leading supplier, Wisconsin-based Empire Level, has been stepping up its efforts to thwart the perennial problem of counterfeits coming into the U.S. from Asia and primarily China.
Illegal knockoffs of tools and just about every other product these days—consumer electronics, footwear, and pharmaceuticals are the most popular items— for decades have been a scourge of global proportions for North American manufacturers. One recalls instances in the 1980s, when Stanley Works brought federal marshals onto the floor of the National Hardware Show to arrest vendors that were displaying knockoffs of Stanley’s products in their booths.
Just last week, the Ministry of Trade in Qatar seized 15,000 fake tools bearing the Stanley brand. And on July 31, China and the U.S. conducted their largest coordinated raids ever, seizing 243,000 consumer electronics counterfeits at American ports.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection seized the equivalent of $1.26 billion in counterfeit products. But the government’s efforts sometimes seem like it’s trying to bail out a flooded boat with a teaspoon.
In a report it released in May, the Intellectual Property Commission—co-chaired by former Utah governor and presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman and by the former director of National Intelligence and commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command Dennis Blair—conservatively estimated the annual losses from intellectual property (IP) theft at more than $300 billion, “comparable to the current annual level of U.S. exports to Asia.”